Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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gonzo gustation

Filed under: — stan @ 9:48 pm

Some years ago, I read a very funny book called Eat this Book: A Year of Gorging and Glory on the Competitive Eating Circuit. It was hilarious. So when Kathleen found out that there was going to be an IFOCE-sanctioned eating contest right here in Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles, I knew we had to go see it.

The contest was gyoza eating. The time was 10 minutes. The record was somewhere over 200. So this promised to be quite a spectacle. When we got there, the announcer was stirring up the crowd and getting everyone ready for the main event. There were two tables. One for amateurs, and one for the professional eaters. One seat at the amateur table had been reserved to be auctioned off for charity, and the winner paid $60 to sit in it.

They had a big parade and introduction of the pros. All were ranked in the top 50 in competitive eating. Like professional wrestlers, they all made their own distinctive entrances, and each had a theme song. The eating hadn’t even started, and this was already a tremendously entertaining spectacle.

Then it was time for the contest. The announcer counted down, and the eating commenced. And it was epic. I’d figured out that they would have to average something like one gyoza every 2.5 seconds to even have a chance at winning. But I really had no idea what that would look like. But I saw that that translated into the gurgitators stuffing many gyoza into their mouths at once. The chewed a little bit and then washed it all down with a little bit of water or whatever was their drink of choice.

One thing that I think would have made this better would have been a large clock to count down the time. The announcer counted down, first by minutes, and then by seconds the last minute, but I think that having a large clock would have really helped the drama. In any event, he counted down the last 10 seconds and called time. Apparently, the rules allow for the contestants to stuff as much food as they want into their mouths before time is called. As long as they swallow it, it’s all all right. So the final seconds had all the contestants stuffing massive numbers of gyoza into their mouths, and they ended up looking like demented chipmunks with their bulging cheeks.

Along the way, only one contestant suffered a ‘reversal of fortune‘, and that was the guy who had won the charity auction for the final seat at the amateur table. Well, regardless, he had a unique experience.

When it was all over, they tallied the results, and the winner had eaten 264 gyosa. That works out to an average of one gyoza every 2.36 seconds for the 10 minutes of the contest. Just the thought of that makes me queasy. At last, I’ve found a sport that’s even more insane than the one I like to compete in.

It was a fun little outing.


Downtown art

Filed under: — stan @ 11:42 pm

It’s Art Walk night in downtown Los Angeles again. We missed it last month, but this time we didn’t have any conflicts. So Lucinda and I went downtown for it. We met up with Kathleen, who brought Melissa and Emily along.

The first order of business was to find the fabled gourmet food trucks. Every time we go, it seems like they are in a different place. This time, they were all in one parking lot at the north end of the gallery district. We wandered around, looking at all the choices. Kathleen and I both decided to have the Guerilla Fried Chicken. It was a bit odd, and very good. Never had fried chicken with bearnaise sauce before. We followed that up with an ice cream sandwich with chocolate chip cookies and salted caramel ice cream. Yum.

After that, we got down to wandering the galleries and looking at the art. As always, there was a wide variety of things on display, ranging from meh to good to very disturbing. I like the disturbing ones. We wandered around until the galleries started closing down, which was around 10. It was a fun little Thursday night outing.


Top five

Filed under: — stan @ 2:47 pm

A couple months ago, I found an article in the L.A. Times on “The Ten Best Houses in Southern Calfornia“. when I was reading, it, I realized that we could go see five of them on a single bike ride. I made up a route for this, and I test-rode it back in June. So today was the first time that I took the bike club group on it.

The first one was the Gamble House, which we pass all the time. Then we rode down into Silver Lake and then up the hill next to Griffith Park. Some of the guys missed the turn on Vermont and rode off up the hill into the park. I figured they’d realize that they’d missed a turn when they got to the Observatory. So I just waited down on Vermont. While I was waiting for them to come back, Carla showed up. She had overslept and gotten a late start. Finally, the rest of the group came back down the hill, and we all headed up to the Ennis House.

The third house was the Hollyhock House. That was an easy side trip. Then we headed across Hollywood, passing a sightseeing van that was stopped to look at the Michael Jackson Auditorium at the elementary school on Gardner Ave.

The Schindler House on Kings Road in West Hollywood was the fourth stop on the tour. Then we rode back into Hollywood and up toward the hills. We stopped off at the Studs Theater, which used to be the flagship of the old Pussycat chain back in the ’70s. David had to try his feet in John Holmes’ footprints in the concrete in front of the theater.

We rode up Nicholls Canyon to get to Mulholland Drive. Then we took a short side trip up Torreyson Dr to see the Chemosphere. That was the fifth and final stop on the house tour. Then we rode the rest of the way down Mulholland and down into Burbank for a snack at Priscilla’s. The rest of the ride was a direct path home by way of Glendale and Eagle Rock. We had a bit of fun right at the end when a guy on an electric-assisted bike passed us. We got on behind him and he motor-paced us for several miles, which was nice.

It was a fun little ride.

52 miles.


Hollywood Sightseeing with the Krell

Filed under: — stan @ 6:29 pm

This afternoon, Kathleen and I went to Hollywood to see the exhibit at the Linwood Dunn Theater gallery. They were showing props and other artifacts from the 1956 movie, “Forbidden Planet“. In keeping with the theme from last Thursday, this movie was based on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”.

We saw some of the equipment they used to make the all-electronic music for the movie, which was pretty unusual for 1956. We also saw some miniature models used in the filming, as well as the full-sized Robbie the Robot suit.

After this, we went to Hollywood Forever to do a bit more sightseeing. We went to Hollywood Forever, and I got some new entries for my Graves photo collection.

And on the way home, I saw some minor words of wisdom tie-wrapped to a pole.


Hamlet, but not in the original Klingon

Filed under: — stan @ 10:50 pm

Our adventure for tonight was a trip back to Griffith Park to see the Independent Shakespeare Company’s production of Hamlet. This was actually the first time I’ve ever seen this particular play, and I never realized just how pervasive it is in our culture.

There is the story of the woman who read Hamlet for the first time and said, “I don’t see why people admire that play so. It is nothing but a bunch of quotations strung together.”

—Isaac Asimov, Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare

The show was well done. Even though I’d only read a brief synopsis ahead of time, I was able to follow the story, and it was entertaining. So this made for a nice little evening adventure.


Nope – no aliens here…

Filed under: — stan @ 11:11 pm

Tonight, Kathleen and I went to the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles for a talk by Annie Jacobsen about her new book, Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base. The format of the talk was a conversation between her and M.G. Lord, author of Astro Turf: The Private Life of Rocket Science. We’d been to one of these events once before, when we went to see John Waters last year.

The talk was very interesting and entertaining. There were even three of her sources in the audience: Ed Lovick, Ken Collins, and Wayne Pendleton. They were engineers and a test pilot on the A-12 “Oxcart” project, which was the CIA precursor to the Air Force’s SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. So as you might imagine, they had some good stories to tell her for the book. Apparently, a lot of this was classified until pretty recently. The fact that the CIA was actively designing stealth aircraft in 1957 was kept secret until the late 1990s.

All told, it was an entertaining evening. And as a little bonus, we got to look across the street from the library and gaze up at the U.S. Bank tower and think about just how much it’s going to hurt when we go to climb the stairs there in September.


The Captains

Filed under: — stan @ 11:35 pm

Tonight, Kathleen and I went over to Hollywood Forever for a special screening of “The Captains“. This is a documentary by William Shatner, where he goes to meet and interview all of the actors who have played starship captains in all the incarnations of “Star Trek“. It was a chance for him to confront and embrace what is surely his legacy, and to talk with the others and share their feelings on their participation in “Star Trek”, which will likely be the one thing they will all be remembered best for having done.

As one would expect, there were lots of fans there in “Star Trek” costumes. I don’t have a costume, but I brought along my tribble. And each incarnation of the show and each captain had its own set of fans. Even after all these years, it’s still an amazing thing that it took on a life of its own and became such a pervasive part of our culture.

William Shatner was there to introduce the film. Beforehand, I saw him in the middle of a little scrum of photographer, along with Henry Rollins. (WTF? Henry Rollins? What’s he doing here?) In his introduction to the film, Shatner spoke of how strange it was to be introducing this film at the cemetery in Hollywood. Looking over the back wall, we could see the sound stage where they filmed the original “Star Trek”, nearly 50 years ago. He talked about how he originally came to the part of Captain Kirk, and how nobody really thought the show would amount to much in the long run. And his having to come to terms with the fact that that one role has in many ways come to define his life. Apparently, it’s been an interesting journey.

The film itself was very entertaining. The other captains all came into it with at least a bit more warning that they were doing something that would be career-defining, since they all came along after “Star Trek” had become a worldwide phenomenon. Each one had a slightly different take on how their character should work, and hearing their reminiscences was a lot of fun.

In the end, Shatner came to terms with his legacy, which was the main reason he made this film. It was a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it.


Title goes here

Filed under: — stan @ 9:58 pm

It’s July, and that means it’s time for my annual spiritual pilgrimage back to Austin, Texas. Time to visit friends, have some fun, and generally enjoy being a Big Cheese for a few days.

Kathleen and I flew out of Long Beach early Friday morning. As always, JetBlue was on time. Sadly, the TV on the plane was broken. So we had no entertainment. But that was all right. I can be amused just by looking out the window.

On the way into Austin, we could see Lake Travis out the window. I’d looked it up, and the water level was very low this summer. Something to do with not having had rain for two months. Paolo had said we could come out to his house on Sunday to play in the lake, but that it was now a bit of a hike to get down to the water.

This year, the event was being held in the Airport Hilton, so we didn’t have to really do anything to get there. Just picked up the phone and they sent a van over to the terminal to pick us up. After we got checked in, we headed down to meet up with the group for the opening dinner social at Patsy’s Cowgirl Cafe.

After dinner, we went downtown. The next part of the event was a social at the Chain Drive, but first we went to see the famous Congress Ave bridge bat colony. It was an impressive sight to see so many bats flying out all at once. Then we headed over the place and I got to see some more old friends and schmooze a lot. It was a fun evening.

Saturday was mostly in the hotel. The lobby there was cold like a meat locker. After the daytime activities, we gathered up some of the presenters and all went to dinner at the Catfish Parlour. I finally got my fried okra. When we came out, it was starting to get dark, so they had the giant neon catfish sign turned on. After that, it was time to head out to the big party.

On Sunday morning, the event concluded with a breakfast buffet and keynote talk. The presenter was quite good, and he was very entertaining to listen to. After the talk, we hung around the room until everyone had left. I figured I should enjoy being a Big Cheese for as long as possible. And indeed, when we finally left, I could feel my cheese shrinking back down to its normal size.

Sunday afternoon was the Lake Splash. We headed out to Paolo’s, with a stop at Central Market to get food. And it still pains me to say that I really do wish that we had something like Central Market here in L.A. My hat’s off the the people at HEB for pulling it off. They really did a good job with that place.

The water at Lake Travis was indeed very low. The place where we finally set up our picnic is usually under about 40 feet of water. There were a lot of old drowned tree stumps, and the buoys that usually mark safe boating depth were just lying on the limestone. It was kind of surreal. But the water was still nice. Made the heat almost bearable.

Monday was our visiting day. We checked out and took Capitol Metro into town to meet my old friend Mike for breakfast. Then Stu came and picked us up and we headed out for a day’s worth of playing tourist.

We went to Mellow Johnny’s. I got a new water bottle and a jersey. Then we headed over to the park to see the dinosaur garden. After that, Stu took us out to Elgin for the famous barbecue there. And finally, we went back into town and spent the rest of our afternoon at the Yellow Rose.

The flight home was all right. But the TV was broken again. I checked my pictures, and this was a different plane this time. But it was broken none the less. But the upside is that JetBlue gave us a $15 credit for each TV-less leg of our trip. So we can put that towards our tickets to Chicago this fall when we go there for the Sears Willis Tower stair climb.

All told, it was a very fun weekend. And yes, my cheese has now returned to its normal size.


Shakespeare in the Park

Filed under: — stan @ 11:34 pm

Last summer, Kathleen and I used to have picnics at the Old Zoo in Griffith Park. And while we were there, we saw the Independent Shakespeare Company doing their summer show in the park. We were having a picnic there last week, and we saw the rehearsals, so tonight we decided to go back and have another picnic and see the show.

The show was a reinterpretation of “The Merry Wives of Windsor“, set in 1920s London. The show got a good review in the L.A. Times. Neither of us is especially familiar with Shakespeare’s plays, but we looked up some information about it beforehand, and Kathleen brought up a synopsis of it on her iPhone, so we were able to refer to that at times when it wasn’t clear what was happening.

All in all, it was a very fun evening.


Echo Mountain for the 4th

Filed under: — stan @ 11:58 pm

Tonight, Kathleen, Lucinda, and I hiked up Echo Mountain above Altadena to watch the fireworks. Apparently, this is a popular thing to do, since there was a pretty big crowd headed up the trail. It’s about 2 1/2 miles to the top, and by the time we got there, most of the prime picnic spots were taken. But we managed to find a reasonable place to set up, and we had a little picnic while we waited for the sun to go down.

When night fell, we could see the entire Los Angeles basin laid out in front of us. And we could see people setting off backyard fireworks all over the city. Some of them were quite large. But when it got to be 9:00, the big fireworks shows started. The one at the Rose Bowl was the closest to us, but we could see them going on all the way down to Long Beach, which is something like 35 miles away as the crow flies. We could also see a big show going on at Dodger Stadium, which was just in front of the downtown skyscrapers, and another show going on just beyond downtown. It was kind of strange to see the fireworks peeking through the gaps between the big buildings.

I’d brought a light tripod, and I set my camera up on it. I set it on the timer, and had it take several shots at a time. There’s no way to hold the camera steady enough without a tripod, and it’s best if I’m not even touching it when it’s shooting, so I just had it snap away by itself. And I got some nice pictures just by random chance.

When it was all over, everyone headed back down the trail at the same time. The hike down was like driving the 405 on a Friday afternoon. Lots of stopping and waiting. But it was still a fun little adventure, and I think we’re going to do it again next year.

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